Reader Question #2: How do you start believing when you don’t (even if you know it would be good for you)?

Dear readers, a reminder: Helleneste kai Grammateus is open to questions. To take advantage of this, please read the Site Policy and complete the Ask a Question form. As always, this is a free service, but if you wish to help support this blog, I greately appreciate donations.

This comment came in response to a previous article, Why believe in divinity if you can’t prove it’s real?

One slight problem: if you know you’re just deluding yourself in order to live longer and healthier, how do you even believe? For those that aren’t, the fact that being religious is correlated to better health is of no significance. -Quintin

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The Pagan/Polytheist Health Survey

Medicine logotype

Symbol of Medicine Image via Wikipedia

I read about Kimberly Hunt’s Pagan Health Survey this on The Wild Hunt and after taking the survey, I want to encourage you, the reader, to contribute to her research.  Here are her reasons why:

As both a Pagan and cultural anthropologist, I felt it was vitally important that we help policy-makers and service providers understand our needs and beliefs. This will help us to meet the health care needs of our community and build public understanding of our religious and spiritual traditions. I designed the Pagan Health Survey to help people better understand us and our views on health. The results will be combined with what I have gained by being within the Pagan community and sitting in on healing panel discussions, workshops, and so forth, as well as interviews with Pagan clergy and health care practitioners.

And here are mine:

  • It allows your opinions to be heard by policy-makers.
  • Policy is informed by research.
  • We want more alternative healthcare options.
  • Why not?
    • It takes about five minutes.
    • They survey doesn’t ask for any identifying information (not even your email address).

Please take the survey here.  The last question is open-ended, allowing you to submit your thoughts in a cohesive manner.  Please save that answer and post it blow in the comments section. I’ll refrain from posting mine for now so as not to bias you.  I’ll post it later on next week.

What do you do to prevent health problems and treat them when they arise?  When it comes to your health, do you think science is in conflict with spiritual treatment?  Do you think they are separate?  Have you had bad (or good) experiences with MDs or spiritual healers?  If you are Atheist, what do you think of spiritual healing and prayer and have you ever tried it?   If you are a polytheist, in what cases would you employ western medicine?  Please comment below!

From Atheism to Paganism

Atheist Badge

Atheist Badge via Wikipedia

The issue of returning to Paganism from Atheism came up in a thread on MysticWicks.com:

…It’s been years since I’ve been a “practicing” pagan, and I largely consider myself a non-theist these days. However, I don’t particularly want to be.

I was happiest when I felt a strong spiritual connection, and I generally had a positive outlook, because I felt in control of my life via magic and ritual, and cared for by the Divine.

I first started falling away from it when my husband and I moved in together. (I officially considered myself a pagan at 16, moved out of my parents house at 19, and am currently 25.) It seems so strange, but living with my conservative parents, it was so much easier to do rituals… even if most of my supplies and books were hidden away, I spent every night alone in my room, and had all the privacy I wanted. Not that my husband minds, but I just don’t like the idea of running off to the bedroom (or sending him and the cats to the bedroom, as he has suggested) if I want to do a ritual. I feel timed, and a bit awkward knowing someone is aware of what I’m doing, when I consider it private. (A bit like talking through the bathroom door…)

I’ve spent so much time as a cynical atheist, and defending the (shocking!) idea of not believing in God to a few nosy co-workers, that I almost feel… too stubborn? to go back to believing in a higher power. I feel like it’s conceding or something.

I’m not opposed to the idea of non-theist witchcraft, as there are still some “spiritual” things I believe in (karma, energy, etc.) without believing in God, but believing in magic without a higher power seems almost blasphemous to me. Egotistical, at least. When I would do rituals, I would consider it a prayer or a request, not “controlling” the energy and elements myself… – humangirl

My advice for her, and others, considering returning to paganism:

It took me time to adjustment to practicing rituals while living with my husband and negotiate the space-sharing issues. So I know what that feels like – to feel self-conscious while living with another person, even one who is supportive and understanding of your practices.

There is a bit of pride wrapped up in being Atheist because that involves a level of certitude; it’s a personal certitude that takes the place of faith in one or more deities outside of oneself, and that can require significant pride to maintain. I say this having been an Atheist.  It was indeed a humbling experience to first doubt that there is nothing outside of the concrete physical world, and later to believe in something more.

If you are not certain about the existence of any deities, well, then you’re Agnostic. And that’s fine.  But if you don’t believe in gods in any way, shape, or form, you can still have other ideas about how the world works.  Example: belief in Feng Shui for example doesn’t involve any kind of deity, yet it’s nearly magical the way it functions through the direction and cultivation of Chi.

It’s really going to take some self-reflection for you to find out what you believe. Neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what to believe.  But once you do realize what your belief is, then you just need to come to terms with it. If you are changing your mind, what is there to be embarrassed about? People don’t stop learning or growing, they continue to do so throughout their entire lives.

Would you consider yourself a Theist?  Atheist?  Monotheist?  Polytheist?  Agnostic?  Have you ever changed from one to the other?  How would you advise someone experiencing a crisis of faith (or crisis of lack of faith)?